The real reason most follow-ups get ignored

by Steli Efti
follow-ups-ignored

You’ve sent your initial email. You crafted it well, sent it to a few colleagues to get their feedback, made sure your ask was reasonable, then hit send. A week goes by—you follow up

Another week goes by—another follow-up. And still… crickets.

So now you’re asking:

“What did I do wrong? Why didn’t they answer?”

The thing is, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to those two questions. It’s always going to depend on who you are, who you’re reaching out to, what you’re asking for, etc.

Still, you’ll find plenty of hot outreach and follow-up hacks floating around:

  • Include numbers in your subject lines
  • Namedrop one of your top investors
  • Ask them if they want to hear more before you pitch anything
  • Follow up every day for a week / follow up once a week / follow up once a quarter

The list goes on and on and on... Do these so-called “outreach hacks” work?

Sometimes yes.

But those hacks are just Band-Aids. If you think adding numbers to your subject lines and calling it a day will boost your outreach and follow-up reply rates, prepare to be disappointed.

So what can you do? Are you doomed because your cold email didn’t get replies? Should you all it quits just because your follow-ups went unopened?

Not quite.

There are definitely ways to up your reply rates and the overall success of your outreach that aren’t just quick hacks. How you approach that first outreach email is important, but the real money is made after that.

It comes down to the follow-up phase. (I’ve written an entire book about the art of following up effectively. You can download a free copy here!)Follow-Up-Formula-Cover-CloseAnd that’s what we’re going to dig into today, so let’s jump right in to the reasons that your emails are getting ignored in the first place:

1. You haven’t done your research

The most likely reason your outreach is falling flat on its face is that you barely know who you’re talking to.

If you go the mass-outreach route and try to land in as many inboxes as possible, naturally you won’t be able to do the research needed to understand what each recipient is looking for.

Here’s the thing:

Personalization is key.

And no, dropping in some {FIRST NAME} and {COMPANY} merge tags does not count as personalization.

ClickToTweet_followupsignoredTake this pitch for example:

email-personalization-is-key

The email itself isn’t awful. It’s fairly brief, not asking for too much. But here’s the big problem that most prospects will instantly see:

It’s a template that can easily be blasted to thousands of people per hour.

The only bits of personalization in there are the classic {FIRST NAME} and {COMPANY} merge tags. Everything else is cookie-cutter—there’s nothing in there that’s relevant specifically to the person you’re emailing.

You need to understand what the person you’re talking to is interested in, then craft your outreach and follow-ups accordingly.

Here’s how you can go about this:

  1. Don’t use a generic (and robotic) template for every email
  2. Figure out what they’ve been investing their time in lately
  3. Look into the content they’re sharing and talking about most
  4. Find the angle that will catch their attention
  5. Craft your outreach and follow-ups with this angle top of mind

2. Your emails are way too long

Have you ever met somebody who gets genuinely excited when they open up an email that’s just a wall of text—like this?

emails-too-long-example

I’ll bet you stopped reading at “try to sell you leads…” in that screenshot—and that’s if you even got past “I am sure you get 250 emails like this–” 

The point is this:

Nobody wants to spend all their time in Gmail. And if you’re asking them to dig through an email that’s just a bunch of block paragraphs, the only reply you’ll ever get is the classic “stop emailing me”—sometimes in a much less friendly tone.

Here are the questions you need to answer as efficiently as possible:

  • Who are you?
  • Why are you reaching out?
  • Why should they care?
  • What do you want?

3. You’re waiting way too long

Want to know the easiest way to get completely forgotten about?

Wait for weeks between each follow-up you send—or worse, never send a single follow-up email at all.

No matter how much research and personalization work you put in, you’re still only looking at a 40% response rate at best. The real success comes from the follow-ups. And if you’re waiting for weeks before reaching out again, you’re just wasting your own time.

So what’s the best follow-up schedule?

 

Let me introduce you to the Close follow-up formula:

1. Send the first cold email.

Do your research on what’s most likely to resonate, then personalize and send.

2. Wait 1 day, then send follow-up #1 at a different time of day.

This should be a modified version of your first email. Communicate the same message—just in a different format. For example, if your initial email was several paragraphs long, make this follow-up email only two sentences long, and vice versa.

3. Wait 2 days after your second email, then send follow-up #2.

Don’t explain anything at all. Just quickly and clearly restate your call to action. You can ask your prospect to introduce you to someone else in their organization, schedule a call, or just respond to your email—whatever you asked in the first email.

4. Wait 4–5 days after your third email, then send the third and final follow-up.

This is the break-up email. It’s where you say goodbye to the prospect. Here you’re tapping into their loss aversion—a psychological principle that says people strongly prefer avoiding losses to acquiring gains.

Notice the timeline here:

  • Day 1: Send cold email
  • Day 2: Follow up
  • Day 4: Follow up
  • Day 8 or 9: Follow up (break up)

That’s barely a week and a half. If you try to stretch this same formula over 30+ days, you’re not really “following up”—you’re pretty much starting from scratch each and every time.

Wrapping up

email-outreach-follow-up

The success of your email outreach comes down to the follow-up.

If you don’t follow up at all, you’re leaving money on the table. Simple as that. So how can you make sure your follow-ups aren’t getting sent straight to the trash?

Let’s recap:

  • Do your research to make sure your emails resonate
  • Keep your follow-ups short and to the point
  • Shrink the time between follow-ups

Want to take the next step in mastering the follow-up? Grab a free copy of The Follow-Up Formula.

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE COPY TODAY